German FA boss Grindel admits mistakes over Ozil-Erdogan photo scandal

German FA boss Grindel admits mistakes over Ozil-Erdogan photo scandal
German football federation (DFB) chief Reinhard Grindel says he should have handled the scandal surrounding Mesut Ozil’s controversial photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan differently.

Ozil quit international football at the weekend, accusing Grindel of racism over the reaction to the photograph with Erdogan in May and Germany’s disastrous World Cup performances this summer.

READ MORE: ‘Racism & disrespect’: Germany's Mesut Ozil announces shock international retirement

Grindel issued a personal statement via the DFB website on Thursday in which he rejected Ozil’s claims, but admitted that amid the scandal over the Erdogan photograph he should have made it “unequivocally clear” that “any form of racial hostility will not be accepted or tolerated [by himself or the DFB] under any circumstances.”

“The DFB’s values are also my own; diversity, solidarity, anti-discrimination and integration are all values and beliefs that are close to my heart,” Grindel wrote.  

“We live our values. That is why we, as the DFB, questioned the photo with Turkish president Erdogan,” he added.  

“I very much regret that this has been misused for racist slogans. Looking back, as president I should been unequivocally clear about something that is a given for me as a person and for us all as an association: any form of racial hostility will not be accepted or tolerated under any circumstances.

“That was the case for Jerome Boateng, that is the case for Mesut Ozil, and it is the same for any player at grassroots level that has a migrant background,” the DFB chief wrote.

Grindel said he “firmly rejects” any accusations of racism against him and members of the DFB.

“I won’t pretend that this personal criticism hasn’t affected me, but I feel even more sorry for my colleagues, the many volunteers at grassroots level and the staff at the DFB, who have been linked with racism. It’s something I firmly reject for both the association and myself personally.”

Ozil, 29, was born in Germany but is of Turkish descent. He won 92 caps for the German national team – including helping the team to win the World Cup in 2014 – but quit the team in acrimonious fashion after accusing members of the DFB and German media of “racism and disrespect.”

READ MORE: Ozil’s bitter retirement raises ugly questions for Germany

He became embroiled in scandal after being photographed meeting Erdogan in London in May along with German teammate Ilkay Gundogan, with some accusing the pair of disloyalty to Germany. The DFB said the Turkish leader did not “sufficiently respect” the values that it stands for.

Ozil hit out at those claims in his retirement statement, saying he had met Erdogan out of respect for his position and his own Turkish roots, and that the meeting did not have political connotations.   

He also said he had been made a scapegoat for Germany’s disastrous World Cup campaign – at which the defending champions crashed out at the group stage – due to his Turkish heritage.

“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” the Arsenal midfielder had written.